Carroll County looks ahead to 2020 census, new response methods available

The 2020 census will be like none before it. Residents will be able to respond online or via phone to be counted in the census, which is required by the U.S. Constitution and has been conducted every 10 years since 1790.

“We’re doing something that has never been done before in the history of the census,” said Ronald Brown, U.S. Census Bureau partnership coordinator for Maryland, at a kickoff event in Westminster.

Residents will have options of responding to the census online, calling a toll-free telephone number or mailing a form back to the U.S. Census Bureau, Brown said.

Carroll County Commissioners on Monday proclaimed June 10, 2019 as Carroll County 2020 Census Awareness and Complete Count Committee Day — nine months before the counting is scheduled to begin.

Everyone counts when it comes to the census.

Census data affects redistricting, education, welfare programs, transportation, the number of representatives in Congress and more, Maryland Census Director Audra Harrison and Del. Haven Shoemaker said.

“Working with the state, we have learned that for every person missed that represents approximately $1,820 per person,” Brown said. “Over a 10-year period of time, you’re talking about $18,000 that could be missed based on a person being missed in Maryland.”

The federal government allocates more than $675 billion annually based on the data it receives from the census, according to a Maryland Census fact sheet.

“You can stand on almost any street in this country and demonstrate something that was funded through the use of census data,” Harrison said.

Although options were previously limited to the mail, that did not stop Carroll County from having the best 2010 response rate in the state at 83 percent, according to Maryland Census. The decade before, Carroll tied with Howard County for highest response at 84 percent. Harrison is hoping for a repeat.

“Carroll County is a very active, engaged community of families and neighbors,” Harrison said after the meeting. “There is a high sense of civic duty in Carroll County.”

The census form consists of 10 questions, which should take no more than 15 minutes to fill out, according to Harrison. Residents can expect postcards from the bureau between March 12 and 20, 2020, inviting people to respond online (some households will receive paper questionnaires), then a reminder letter between March 16 and 24, Harrison said. Printed forms will be mailed to residents slightly later than in the past, mid-April or early May, Harrison said, urging people to make senior citizens aware of this change.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, recognized the fear some people may have of the government acting as “big brother” with census data, but said “that is the furthest from the truth.”

“We do not share with anyone outside of the Census Bureau,” Brown said. “Yes, we will share the population numbers and how the populations have changed in communities. But we don't share any personal identifiable information with anyone, not with the FBI, not with ICE, not with the IRS, not with the social service departments.”

Census bureau employees take an oath to protect the information they receive, according to Brown.

To help the census go as smoothly as possible in Carroll County, approximately 30 local people representing various organizations and communities will serve on the Census Complete Count Committee. After the proclamation Monday, they underwent training for the year ahead.

mkeller@baltsun.com

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